Swakopmund, Namibia
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Sandwich Harbour

Desert Dunes & Dust Tours Namibia

Sandwich Harbour

Sandwich Harbour lies 64km south of Walvis Bay along a rough-hewn track which can only be accessed with a 4×4 vehicle. It is best to go on a guided Sandwich Harbour Tour, or on a Guided self-drive tour.

Sandwich Harbour was attractive to seafarers, as a destination for fresh water, meat, whaling and fishing. Now it is best-known for the birds which congregate around the shallow lagoon at its southern tip of the bay.

In the north, surrounded by towering dunes is the bay. The stormy sea has swelled its banks and entered the once freshwater lagoon, contaminating it with saltwater. Sandwich Bay mouth has sanded up once again and one of the reasons it was never suitable as a Harbour. Beyond that, the Namib Desert with its red dune belt stretches off to the horizon.

History of Sandwich

Sandwich Harbour lying close to Walfish Bay was sometimes mistaken on early maps. Due to the many whales found in the area, Walfish Bay a huge Bay compared to Sandwich was named BAHIA da BAHLEAS- Bay of Whales by the Portuguese seafarers.

In 1785 Capt James Shields for Enderby Whaling was chartered to catch whales along the Angolan and Namibian coast and caught 15 whales in Sandwich harbour. In 1884 Germany colonised the area from the Orange River to the Kunene but Britain retained Walfish Bay. German settlers soon arrived and from 1894 Sandwich became a real Business hub. Corned beef meat canning factory was erected as well as a fish drying camp. These did not last long as the harsh conditions and the bay sanding up were continuous problems.

During the 1920s, the Guano rush started. The Guano was harvested off the small island in the Bay. Due to its lucrative nature sand was pumped on to the island to enlarge it and make it high enough for the Springtide not to destroy the guano layer. While the birdlife certainly came to the party in this regard, marauding jackals soon discovered how to make their way to the island at low tide, and scared them off the production line.

With no commercial future in sight, Sandwich Harbour became a nature park in 1954 and was later incorporated into the Namib-Naukluft National Park. 

Desert Dunes & Dust Tours Namibia

For the Birds

The abundance of Birds has won the lagoon at Sandwich Harbour, one of 5 Ramsar acclaimed Wetlands in Namibia. Research by experts has revealed numbers of flamingos to rival those of Walfish Bay wetland and record numbers of plovers and terns in the area between Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour. Pelicans, turnstones, avocets and other Palearctic waders also visit here. A little further afield, the endemic Dune lark and Damara tern together with chestnut banded plover, tiptoe amongst the sands. A birdwatcher‘s Dream.

Desert Dunes & Dust Tours Namibia
Desert Dunes & Dust Tours Namibia

See the Wonders of Sandwich Harbour with our guided Tours

This rich birdlife is best experienced on a guided tour or guided self-drive trip from Swakopmund. The route crisscrosses the dunes and the old railway line to Walvis Bay, where you can marvel at Bird Rock, which is the only man-made guano island and home to over 20 000 water birds.

You pass through Walfish Bay and the Walfish Bay Lagoon, which is the most popular and important Ramsar wetland in southern Africa, with up to 250 000 birds. See the pink salt lakes of the Salt mine en-route.

The next site on the agenda is the Kuiseb Delta, now under concession, with its ancient Khoi sites, fossilized animal tracks, and towering dunes. Traversing further across the salt pans and sands you may spot ostrich, springbok, jackal, as well as Pale Chanting Goshawks. Peregrine Falcons and Black-breasted snake eagles search from high for small mammals and reptiles in the sands.

Miles of rough terrain and sandy shores follow, only to reveal an unexpected abundance of birds, as you reach your destination.  The most awesome Dune view of the wetland vegetation is a lush contrast to the sandy route you took to get here, with deserted buildings of yesteryear sticking out of the landscape and the lagoon, with its 70 000 avian inhabitants surrounded by !Nara plants.

It’s the perfect spot for a picnic with binoculars and bird list close to hand. The drive along the oceanfront may reveal seals, whales, and dolphins offshore. Further on your return through towering Dunes, stunning dune views, and adrenalin raising dune drive, showing what life the desert yields.

The guided tours depart at 08h00 and return by 17h00, to Swakopmund. 

Sandwich Harbour is yet another example of the unexpected abundance and beauty to be found in this interesting country and well worth including in your trip to Namibia. Most certainly an unforgettable experience.

Desert Dunes & Dust Tours offer the Classic Sandwich Harbour Tour both half-day and full-day tours, with English or German Guiding. We share history and our passion for the area with you. Well worth contacting on your Namibia Holiday.

Uwe Kessler
Desert Dunes & Dust Tours Namibia